breaking the habit
Hello, my name is Jen and I am addicted to approval from others.
We are taught from a young age, that we need other people to like and accept us, but we are rarely handed the wisdom of self-acceptance. **We cut to a twenty-six year old approval addict, typing on her laptop overlooking a cluster of trees. As she taps away, she wonders if people will like this post. She sighs in frustration and proves her own point again.**
I. Am. Addicted. To. Approval.
School was grey monotony and my go to way of getting through the long hormonal days, was to make friendships with almost everyone, so I could avoid the pain I had in my chest. It was a challenge I relished and still do unfortunately. The popular girls in musicals who ignored me, suddenly paid attention when I pilled pizzas on top of eachother in a restaurant and scoffed them. I wasn't enough standing in my grey high school hoody quietly, but I was enough when I entertained people with crap puns and stupid faces. I learnt the lesson early on that humour gets attention and you can use it to bait people and see if they will give you their approval. Safe to say it was a slippery slope...
Friendship is one of the most important things in the world to me. I freekin' love uncontrollable laughter with a friend, when our shoulders are shaking through a Shakespeare at the theatre because an actor spat into the air over our heads. The discussion of a sexual taxidermy collection. The hysteria of someone doing a bizarre sounding fart so quietly, that we have to lie down around the corner breathless to recover. Then there is the beautiful contrast in moments of deep connection; walking through the hills spilling a vulnerable diatribe of emotions to each other, being at a funeral squeezing our hands tightly together covered in snot and tears, burying symbols of the past in a park, coming out to eachother in a dark room nervous of the consequences. The profound nature of friendship makes me feel so overwhelmingly grateful to have people in my life, that I well up just thinking about it. Here is the issue though; I find it incredibly difficult not to want every person I meet to like me.
My Grandad was the King of making friends. He spoke to everybody he walked past. He invited the postman in to our home to give him a tour of the building work he'd completed. He knocked on a man's car window who was sleeping to wake him up. He'd go to a church lunch group whilst granny and I would wait outside afterwards for at least 20 minutes until he had said goodbye to each individual. He had a phenomenal capacity to make everyone in a group feel seen and heard, no matter whether they were introverted or disengaged. This is a skill that I saw as a child and tried to emulate. I reckon I've done it pretty successfully as I have a genuine interest in everyone I meet, but this obsession does have a pitfall.
Warning, side effects may include:
Needing everyone to like me
Wanting to be everyone's best friend
Wanting to inspire people
Wanting people to find me funny
Hoping people find me interesting
Hoping I am clever enough
Hoping I have the right answers
Hoping I come across as a decent human being
Hoping I am attractive enough to spend time with certain people.
Hoping I am behaving correctly.
I have a warped belief that unless I meet with a friend, pay for the whole meal, give them a 10,000 word inspiring essay and lift them up in the air, that they won't want to see me. So every interaction needs to feel deep and life changing. Of course when get home, I am exhausted and confused as to why I repeat this cycle of shite. But what do I even want from these friends? They are already there listening and supporting. They are enough to me, even when they turn up with a cold in a miserable mood. It's the craving of approval that makes me long for never ending love letters and compliments about how good a friend I am to numb my pain. It's embarrassing but true.
My compulsion to receive approval rears its ugly head voraciously in an educative environment , however in Martial Arts, Master Orton is helping me understand that I don't need him to tell me I am good enough. He will never throw around compliments because he knows the effect it has on each fighter. We end up chasing the praise instead of finding a passion in training ourselves and setting our own standards. As a class we breakdown sequences under his careful observation and he adjusts the movement to improve. His only praise will be 'Good effort', which he will relay if he sees you are really putting your all into the task. His silence brings out the ugly egoic voice in my head screaming 'Am I good enough? Look at how good that purple belt is! Am I doing it correctly? I hope you like me! Look how good I am!' Although he is at the highest belt grade, he still looks to himself for accountability and compassion, not others. He doesn't need my approval as a student. He doesn't need any other instructors approval. He knows who he is and what he has to offer. And that is pretty powerful.
You know, my grandad's funeral was packed full; they opened another room in the church so people could hear the service on a speaker. People genuinely loved him and I know he had a lasting impact on everyone he met. But when it came to organising his own home, everything was put on the backburner. Granny had a list of DIY jobs for years but his priority of work was put to strangers and extended family. This reflects to me that he associated people's connection with him to his tradesmanship and skill. But Grandad, even if you hadn't fixed computers, put up walls and given sermons in churches, you would have been equally as loved. I loved you when you lay on your back and snored peacefully on the floor. I loved you when you walked down our road, a water bottle in hand looking with curiosity at the sky. I loved you when you squeezed me in a huge warm hug and made that weird noise everytime. You were and are enough. I miss you every single day and you taught me so much about love.
There are a million lessons to be learnt whilst on this planet and I am writing these down so I can come back to them. I don't need to give my hair in a locket to friends and I don't need them to write me a novella called "Jen Carss' positive attributes". Maybe I just need to accept that friendship is about recharging and being recharged too. That I am enough sat with someone without make up, chatting about my feelings and being awkward and uncomfortable. That we can do nothing together and it will still be okay. I will be safe and seen. I don't need to write these blogs for likes and feedback. They are just another form of approval. These blogs are for my own discovery and journey and in writing again, I feel closer and more connected to who I am.
Hello, my name is Jen and I am an approval addict. I am in recovery and will be for the rest of my life. But I know deep down, the only persons approval I really need is my own.